Friday, November 17, 2006

Air and Angels

‘Air and Angels’: a musical serenade
Gabriele Malzahn – mezzosoprano
Camilla Hoitenga – flute
Stephen Aston - piano

Al Ain Rotana Hotel gardens
Thursday 16th November 2006

With a gentle breeze welcoming the large audience, a backdrop of palm trees and an occasional punctuation by builders working nearby, the musical evening began.

The flautist, Camilla Hoitenga, accompanied by our Stephen Aston on piano, started off with Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata in G Major. The persistent tappings, drillings and bangings from the construction site disturbed the ambience of the occasion somewhat but did nothing to diminish the beauty of the music.

The mezzosoprano, Gabriele Malzahn, came onto the platform to sing ‘Allerseelen’, a song Richard Strauss composed while only 20 years of age.

For many, the highlight of this first half must have been the entrancing solo for flute and voice, ‘Laconisme de l’aile’ by Kaija Saariaho. The flautist, Camilla Hoitenga gave a ‘tour de force’, combining aspiration, words and notes to haunt the air and mesmerize the audience.

Tea and coffee, served by liveried waiters, courtesy of the Rotana Hotel was welcomed, and the second half of the concert soon began, happily without the accompaniment of hammers and nails.

A lively caprice by Russell Webber settled the audience, before the soloist sang an example of Brahms’ ‘Lieder’, ‘Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer’, written, as the full programme notes informed us, when he was in his prime as a composer.

A rousing Shakespeare song came next; the well known ‘Hey, Ho, the Wind and the Rain’ set to music by Roger Quilter.

It was in the three traditional folk songs though, that the singer showed the range of her expertise; in the well known Irish folksongs, ‘The Salley Gardens’, ‘The foggy dew’, and then in W.B. Yeats’ ‘She moved through the fair’, Gabriela Malzahn moved from Hibernian trills to longer phrasing to keep the appreciative audience dazzled on this delightful evening of musical entertainment.

Finishing off with Charles Ives’ ‘Old Home Day’, and braving the stronger gusts of wind that constantly threatened to put their sheets to flight, the three performers gave us some more of what the evening had offered: precision accompaniment from Stephen, dexterity and flair from Camilla, and polish and virtuosity from Gabriele.

Let us hope the three can be prevailed upon again soon: to entertain us, and to give so many teachers the chance to dress up in their finery and enjoy an evening of fine music – while the glorious weather lasts!

Robert L. Fielding


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